WCN: On the air at River Falls High SchoolThe 25-student high school class gathers before its audio-video production teacher, Chris Silver, to hear about the day’s assignments.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
The 25-student high school class gathers before its audio-video production teacher, Chris Silver, to hear about the day’s assignments.
He auctions off two stories’ ideas, getting a, “Yeah, I’ll take that,” and another affirmative response from somewhere in the room.
He goes over the day’s announcements to an antsy bunch ready to break off and head into the studio, control room and news room to work the stories.
More than half the class moves over to the newly remodeled Wildcat Communications Network (WCN) broadcast station to produce the “Sports Wrap” for the next day.
Several get busy setting up the studio, adjusting lights, setting one of three cameras. Others sit in the control room, checking the teleprompter’s words and queuing up the background music.
Another group works to ready the next day’s copy, a 5- to 10-minute summary of school news and other items in which the students might take interest.
For example, an interview with two foreign exchange students; the The Hot Spot closing; a horse show; and computer programming.
The WCN news show airs each weekday at 9:10 a.m., during the school’s Focus hour. The crew now pre-tapes the show a day before but will aim to do real-time broadcasts.
Silver said, “We eventually want to go live.”
He explains that after a discussion with Principal Elaine Baumann, he agreed to help breathe new life into the aging A/V station. Students previously used to assemble and produce a VHS-tape-based broadcast geared toward community access.
Silver set out to modernize the studio, generally converting it to a software-based digital system.
Now the station includes a studio, control room and news room. It has production software, all digital capabilities, three cameras, a teleprompter, industry lighting, an interview couch against a black background, a news desk against a green screen that enables the team to embed graphics behind and along with the newscast, and several computers, including the “main brain.”
Silver said while he thought the main brain had more than enough, the class already wishes for a machine with more processing power and memory to handle all the large files needed.
“A (Carl D.) Perkins grant is where a lot of the money came from,” said Silver.
He knows much of the relevant technology from using it in an active music career. The rest he says he learned by independent studying and research.
As the Journal visited, students recorded the “Sports Wrap” part of the news broadcast. One group gathered around the teleprompter and critiqued how the anchor read the text.
Another small group stood silently in the studio, watching the lights, camera and action. After the first take, they decide to try it again then wrapped up the piece after the second take.
Class lasts 90 minutes, but Silver said many students extend their time in the studio by also spending their lunch hour working on the news.
Each student must do two stories a week. As a team, they integrate graphics, coordinate voiceovers and organize everything else required to produce the broadcast.
“We wanted to go for a daily model, like KARE 11,” Silver said.
He adds that that River Falls native and KARE 11 TV reporter Boyd Huppert visited the school and helped the group of students get started.
Silver says another eventual goal of WCN is to air programming on the public-access education channel. He said this is the first year of digital production for the station, so they’re doing all the tweaking to it before the broadcast goes live or expands to other channels.
Their teacher agrees that the kids seem to like the class. One student excitedly shared how he applied to Brown College school of broadcasting and has a good chance of getting accepted.
Silver said the kids have done a good job and taken well to the responsibility of a daily broadcast. He says the studio’s upgrade allowed the A/V program to expand, produce more relevant content and deliver new challenges to the students.
He thinks the upgraded station gives young producers useful experience and exposure to real-world technology and said about the station, “It makes it a lot more accessible to kids.”
To see WCN broadcasts, viewers can log onto www.schooltube.com, click the find a school tab then type River Falls.